A cooking traditionalist, I’m skeptical of any hint of a “pushing food to be more” approach. Why mess with perfection? But, whether in cooking, in raising our kids, in finding new careers, or in our most intimate relationships, we can invite that new person, relationship, skill, or food to become just a bit “more” by […]
I sit at my kitchen table smiling as I gaze lovingly at my newly acquired collection of cookbooks. With titles such as Jerusalem, Turquoise: A Chef’s Travels in Turkey, Mourad New Moroccan, and A Mediterranean Feast , each recipe- and photo-filled volume must weigh at least five pounds. These books are souvenirs that I brought back from my visit this past weekend to the Culinary Institute of America’s annual Worlds of Flavors conference near San Francisco. This year’s theme was Arc of Flavors: Re-imagining Culinary Exchange, from the Mediterranean and Middle East to Asia, and indeed we explored much of the world and its fabulous flavors.
The conference was quite the experience: Imagine 700 chefs watching 70 other chefs and restaurateurs from about 30 countries sharing their interpretations of the food and cooking styles of their region. And then we ate. And ate. And ate!
My fiancé, Jim, and I recently participated in a wonderful program at Kripalu led by David Deida called The Sexual Body and the Yoga of Light. While we never talked about food or cooking during the program, I couldn’t help but draw some significant parallels. A large part of the discussions centered on recognizing and enhancing the natural polarities of masculine and feminine energies. We talked about what it’s like to have both strong and weakened states of polarity with our partners. For me, when the polarity was strong and we had a clear sense of openheartedness, the amount of vibrancy and energy between us felt most engaging and satisfying. When the polarity collapsed, or when it felt forced or came with an agenda (e.g. “I want something from you”), our energy felt unsatisfying.
After the program ended, it just so happed that I needed to go straight to the Kripalu Kitchen to cook a dinner for our Board of Trustees and our donors. As I pondered what to put in one of the appetizers and reflected on the program, I was reminded that cooking can simply be thought of as a dynamic dance of creating healthy polarity between foods.
The white halibut needed the richly colored charmoula sauce we drizzled on it. The Moroccan sauce, with its sharp cilantro and spicy paprika, needed the stabilizing flavor of the olive oil to balance it. The dense flourless chocolate cake was complemented by the light, citrusy whipped cream. And the list of how we used polarized flavors, textures, and ingredients went on.
You know you’re in love when it downpours on the day of your engagement party with 25 friends coming to you house, and it still feels like the sun is shining in all the right places.
Life has been busy (can anyone relate?) these past few months, and Jim and I have not been good at pulling together a dinner party on any regular basis.
Side note: Time is an interesting thing, isn’t it? Don’t laugh, but one of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to “master time.” Yes, somehow I have this glimmer of hope that it’s possible to enjoy life and all those opportunities that come our way with a grace and ease that make it seem as though there’s always enough time.
Despite the many days when I feel anything but graceful, this past weekend got me in one of those busy yet timelessness modes. On the night before the party, my two chef buddies, Jeremy and Sim, came over to help start the food prep. I had designed a fun menu featuring kabobs, spanakopita, lots of fun salads (see one of my favorites below), homemade grape leaves, roasted beets with chèvre—the list went on.
Is there anything more satisfying than sitting down to a yummy, home-cooked meal prepared with fresh ingredients and with love? I’m embarrassed to admit that there are weeks when I don’t get that satisfaction for several days in a row, and I know I’m not alone.
“Many of us are strangers to our kitchens,” says Kathie Madonna Swift, MS, RD, LDN, a nutritionist and dietician whose passion for the power of food has spanned more than 30 years. A Senior Nutritionist in Kripalu’s Healthy Living programs, Kathy knows that packaged foods can’t offer the nutritional punch that fresh, whole foods can. “If you’re really interested in eating well,” she says, “you need to make cooking a priority.”
I get it, but I don’t always do it. Like everyone else, I live in fast-paced life in which work, long commutes, and the call of technology consume more and more of my time. Preparing meals can feel like just one more task on a never-ending to-do list. But Kathy says that we overestimate the amount of time cooking requires and underestimate the benefits we’ll receive if we can begin trading some time spent online for time spent in our kitchens.